The Synaptic Structure Laboratory focuses on unravelling several aspects of the neuronal functional structure.

This knowledge is crucially important to understand the basic mechanisms by which the brain functions and, therefore, the consequences deriving from its dysfunction under pathological conditions. In particular, the main emphasis of the research in the laboratory is on the fundamental principles that regulate the cellular and subcellular localization taking place in neuronal signalling processes in the brain, specially focused in understanding how neurotransmission mediated by neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels occurs in normal and pathological conditions.

The underlying premise of our work is that a better understanding of the general organising principles for receptors and ion channels will allow the identification of new molecular targets and new therapeutic strategies to treat a wide spectrum of CNS disorders.

The methodology of the laboratory is based in the use of immunohistochemical techniques at the light microscopic level, and specifically high-resolution immunohistochemical techniques at the electron microscopic level, combined with quantitative analysis and 3D reconstruction of immunolabelling.

Our efforts have revealed that receptors and ion channels are not uniformly distributed along the neuronal surface and each of them has a specific spatial distribution fingerprint.

Recently, we have revealed a cell-to-cell heterogeneity in content, and clustering of GIRK and SK channels along the axo-somato-dendritic plasma membranes of hippocampal neurons. Ongoing efforts are seeking to:1) reveal the structural, molecular and functional heterogeneity of central synapses,2) determine the subcellular localization of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels along the neuronal surface, 3) provide the morphological evidence for the interaction and functional coupling between neurotransmitter receptors, effector ion channels and associated signalling molecules in specific subcellular compartments, and 4) define the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying pathological conditions in neuronal signalling.

Key Research Areas

– Synaptic organisation of neural systems in the brain including the neocortex, hippocampus and cerebellum.

– Molecular architecture of synapses in the central nervous system.

– Localisation and composition of neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels in relation to identified neurons and synaptic terminals.